Teachers and leadership had a chance Tuesday to meet the new Cavazos Elementary School Principal Beatrice Martinez.

She replaces Amanda Montelongo. Staff formed a community circle in the library, introduced themselves, expressed a hope for the year and offered highlights of their summer.

An Eagle Pass native, Martinez has been in education for more than 20 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and education and a master’s in educational leadership and reform from University of California Berkeley.

Before coming to Ector County ISD, Martinez worked at the Contra Costa and Oakland, Calif., districts and was last at Uvalde ISD.

Martinez said what drew her to Ector County ISD, in part, was the diversity. She noted that the district has a high number of English learners, which is a passion of hers.

Executive Director of Leadership Robert Cedillo said Martinez stood out as a principal candidate because of her experience and that she had worked with economically disadvantaged schools and English as a second language students.

She has also worked with language and reading development.

Cedillo said Martinez also has the leadership skills to bring people together to accomplish their objectives.

About 750 students in grades kindergarten through fifth are expected to attend Cavazos this year.

Martinez said there are 30-plus teachers on staff.

Most of her career has been spent in large districts, so Martinez said that was also a draw because she feels she works better in them. Uvalde had close to 5,000 students and seven schools.

Oakland had about 33,000 students and Contra Costa was about the same size.

Martinez said she had visited Odessa before.

When she goes to a new district, Martinez said she does community mapping. She said community mapping is when you travel the neighborhood where students come from and find out what the feeder schools are.

“… That tells me a lot about the children that we service and the community that we service. So I know that it’s a hard working community. The community itself has been very welcoming to me and that speaks volumes on the type of community that we’re going to serve and the community that I would like to live in,” Martinez said.

“It also gives me a really good idea of how far our little scholars have to travel to come to school, because that matters to me,” Martinez added.

Martinez said she has met with her immediate team, including the instructional coach, counselor and the assistant principal.

“They seem dynamic,” she said. “You can tell that they have a strong passion for education. They are very grounded in servicing Cavazos. I see a lot of assets and talents that I can use to service our children and really build the capacity of our teachers,” Martinez said.

One of the main goals, she said, is building relational trust with the adults. She noted that it’s not only worked for her, but research shows that it is effective and helps ensure positive student outcomes.

“… Literacy is key to our work and we know that literacy is the gatekeeper for our students. We owe it to our community to ensure that our students have a strong literacy foundation. We are an elementary campus and we are going to focus on literacy. That itself is the gatekeeper to many things, so either we are the pathway from school to career, or the pipeline from school to prison, and one of them is not an option,” Martinez said. “So we’re going to get it right.”